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The 3 foundations of the bifurcation of economics and politics

Summary:
From Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan and RWER current issue Foundation 2: The self-equilibrating economic machine This view emerged together – and remains deeply interlaced – with the mechanical cosmology of the seventeenth century. Throughout history, human beings, perhaps as a way of alienating themselves from nature, have tended to politicize their cosmos, imposing on their natural environment the power structures of their own society.[1] And this politicization continues in the liberal-capitalist order. Think of the mechanical world, articulated since Machiavelli by Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Leibnitz and above all Newton. The gods of this liberal cosmos represent absolute rationality, or natural law. The structure of this natural law is numerical and

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from Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan and RWER current issue

Foundation 2: The self-equilibrating economic machine

This view emerged together – and remains deeply interlaced – with the mechanical cosmology of the seventeenth century. Throughout history, human beings, perhaps as a way of alienating themselves from nature, have tended to politicize their cosmos, imposing on their natural environment the power structures of their own society.[1] And this politicization continues in the liberal-capitalist order.

Think of the mechanical world, articulated since Machiavelli by Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Leibnitz and above all Newton. The gods of this liberal cosmos represent absolute rationality, or natural law. The structure of this natural law is numerical and its language mathematical. The universe it gives rise to is flat. The particles that populate it have no inherent hierarchy. They don’t obey or submit, but freely interact through attraction and repulsion. Their actions and reactions are dictated not by a lineage of differential obligations, but by universal gravity. They are tuned not to the willful caprice of the Almighty, but to the structured relations between force and counterforce and the invisible power of equilibrating inertia.

This flat universe mirrors the flat ideals of liberal society. Reduced to its bare essentials, the liberal cosmos is a perfectly competitive market, populated by particles – or actors – each of which is too small to significantly affect the overall outcome. The actions of these particles – namely the market’s producers and consumers – are determined not by patriarchal responsibilities, but by scarcity – the gravitational force of the social universe. They are repelled from and attracted to each other not by feudal obligations, but through the universal utilitarian functions of supply and demand. And they obey not the dictates of hierarchy, but the equilibrating force of the invisible hand.

These mutual reflections help explain why politics and economics must remain distinctly constituted, and why politics must be seen as subservient to economics: if they are not, the arbitrary character of politics – and of power more generally – is bound to distort if not totally annul the rational-mathematical automaticity of the perfectly competitive economy; with mathematical rationality gone, liberals lose their universal laws of the economy and Marxists their capitalist laws of value, if not of motion; and with these laws defunct, political economy can no longer claim to be the science of society.   read more  

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